A New Miami Exhibition Shines a Light on Nouveau Réalisme Founder Arman’s Late Works—See Images Here

"Conceptual Perception” at Ascaso Gallery is the first-ever solo exhibition of the artist's work in Miami.

Arman, Van Gogh: Starry Night (1995). Courtesy of Ascaso Gallery.
Arman, Van Gogh: Starry Night (1995). Courtesy of Ascaso Gallery.

This winter, the visionary artist Arman is the subject of a sprawling new solo show in Miami that brings together a remarkable curation of later works from the 1990s through those created just before his death, in 2005.

The French-born American artist famously founded and helped pioneer Nouveau Realisme—a distinctly French form of abstraction—during the 1960s. While his childhood friend and fellow Nouveau Realist Yves Klein often wittily explored abstract concepts of the spirit and form in his performances, Arman, as the exhibition explores, was instead deeply rooted in the cosmic potential of the material world.

The thickly impastoed works on view in “Conceptual Perception,” on view at Ascaso Gallery through February 26, playfully collapse sculptural and pictorial spaces, incorporating broken dishes, parts of bicycles, and even pieces of instruments into works with riotous dashes of paint and color. 

With the artist’s accumulations of things, the impact of a single object is amplified, while the destruction of a single object such as a musical instrument conveys pathos imbued with the memory of sound reconceptualized in a pictorial arrangement,” writes the art historian Rosemary O’Neill in the exhibition’s catalogue. “With this physical transformation of the recognized, the already-seen, he proposes that new relationships can emerge in new material realizations, a reconnaissance; an acknowledgment of the things—both rare and mundane—that exist along with us and with which we interact in a myriad of ways.”

The heart of the exhibition focuses on the artist’s “Paint Brush” series, which he started in the 1980s. These works incorporate many dozens of paintbrushes onto the surface of canvases amid bold dashes of paint and color. The series comprises imagery of bicycles and, more interestingly, recreations of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

Born Armand Fernandez, the artist famously decided to sign his works simply “Arman” as following Van Gogh’s habit of signing works “Vincent.” Here, these sculptural canvases pay homage to his artistic hero across more than a century, and which, in Arman’s conceptualization and incorporation of paintbrushes, cleverly inserts an understanding of the scale of the artist’s body and movements in our perceptual space. 

See images from “Arman: Conceptual Perception” below. 

Arman, Untitled (2004). Courtesy of Ascaso Gallery.

Arman, Untitled (2004). Courtesy of Ascaso Gallery.

Arman, Untitled (1996). Courtesy of Ascaso Gallery.

Arman, Untitled (1996). Courtesy of Ascaso Gallery.

Arman, Untitled (1989–90). Courtesy of Ascaso Gallery.

Arman, Untitled (1989–90). Courtesy of Ascaso Gallery.

“Arman: Conceptual Perception” is on view at Ascaso Gallery through February 26, 2020.


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